"Tears in Heaven"

a Gundam Wing songfic

Revision Status: Final copy, completed September 30 2000.

Warnings: Angst, shounen-ai, the usual...

Shin Kidosenki Gundam Wing / Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is the property of Sotsu Group, Bandai, Sunrise, and their licensed distributors. The original portion of this fanfiction work is copyright 2000 by Fractalforge, and is considered the creative property of the author.

"Tears in Heaven" is the property of Eric Clapton.

Comments on and criticisms of my fanfiction are universally welcome! Please drop me a line at Fractalforge@hotmail.com, and I'll be happy to respond. If you'd like to post this fanfiction on your site, feel free to do so. All I ask is a mail link, author credit, and no alteration to this text itself.

[Author's Notes]

This story is dedicated to Nick, because it's not always as easy as all that, and to Kyle, for telling me where to look. I'm proud to call you my friends...

Well, as promised, THE BIG REWRITE took place... basically, nothing thematic or major was altered, just tweaking and rewording in certain places. When I started writing, this was my second "serious fic" and my ONLY attempt to ever get into Trowa's head. And it just sort of grew from there... cleanup was necessary, especially where it began to get sort of random and unrealistic. Bang Boy's character was a little bit too extroverted in the first draft, and I hope I've altered him a bit.

I also removed the pointless MacArthur and Led Zep quotations from the beginning of the story...

Originally I'd intended to intersperse the song text into the story, but I couldn't figure out a way to pace it, so I just put it all in the beginning. Hopefully this doesn't make it any less of a "song fic"... Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven
I'll find my way, through night and daty
Cause I know I just can't stay
Here in heaven

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knee
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

Beyond the door
There's peace, I'm sure.
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[AC 197]

I don't really know when it started.

I don't really remember. I guess it simply happened less and less of the time, and I didn't ever miss it. I know that by winter of last year, during the Mariemeia incident, my face was barely moving at all.

I guess it almost totally stopped in the months that have gone by after that. I haven't had any reason to, at least. I've never smiled at routine. And a circus is nothing more than occasionally varied, somewhat interesting routine.

I can't move my face. It's hard for me to smile. I have to sort of tic the muscles in my cheeks in synchronization, and pulse them on and off.

Even then, I have to be in front of a mirror, and alone, and calm.

And it doesn't work all of the time. If I'm really having a bad day, I may not be able to smile for at least a few weeks.

And as of now, I don't think my face has moved out of its usual deadpan stare for at least a month.

Yes, like my speech, like my name, like my life... my face has become constant and unchanging, static, the same.

My name is Trowa Barton.

Not really, of course. I suppose I could get into why my name was changed, and how, and who was responsible, but it would really be redundant. Everyone already knows by now. Everyone that matters, at least. The important thing is that my name is a lie that's worth believing.

Right now I'm walking out of a train station in Aachen, Germany. A small city on the border between Belgium and the rolling hills and valleys of Alt-Deutschland. The skies above the buildings are full of the dense clouds that come before a rain, hazy soaking rags stretched across the sky. Everything around me is tense with moisture and wetness, cold and soggy and thick with anticipation. There's going to be a storm tonight. The moisture in the air causes shafts of light to break through the cloud cover, streams of gold cutting through the growing gray blobs of water and air. The effect is like beams shining down from on high, about to be obscured by the growing cloud cover.

It's like one of the Bible paintings in that museum Quatre took me to once. What was the painting called again? The Eve of the Deluge? I remember the painting depicted the "calm before the storm" of the great Old Testament flood; the growing clouds and thunderheads above the ground. I can't remember the foreground clearly, perhaps there were animals or something and perhaps it was just a landscape. But the background -- the growing menace of the storm -- perfectly describes today, which looks like it's going to be fairly violent.

The temperature is about fifty-five degrees, about average for early fall in central Europe. It's not too warm, not very cold. There's a gradually increasing wind blowing about the city, whistling between the old buildings and brushing light green maple-hooks onto windows of cars and buildings.

The city is fairly quiet, for three in the afternoon; but then again I'm used to being on a colony... and on Earth, nearly anything seems quiet compared to that. There must be something about the ring-shape of them that magnifies sound or reflects it or doesn't let it dissipate, because it always seems to be noisy there.

It's mostly not distinguishable noise, honks or speech or anything like that; just background echoes and roaring. If there were oceans on the colonies, it would remind one of the seaside. Someone I asked told me that it is simply the sum total of everything going on there, all squeezed together and parceled out according to the population sectors. It's as though everyone living there gets an equal share of the noise. Acoustic communism.

But it's not like that at all here. Getting back to Earth from a colony is like stepping into an open field after being trapped inside an office building... except on a much grander scale. Fresher, more open. There's not nearly as much background noise here, even if the weather is a little worse. Weather I don't care about, but for some reason I've always hated loudness.

I don't talk much. Nearly anyone will tell you that.

I start walking towards the old, historical section of town. I'm in a district of office buildings, parks, apartments, churches, the small european cars driving at high speed in the city to make up for the fact that they're paying too much for gasoline. People are walking about a little faster than usual, probably out of some instinct to be inside, safe and warm, by the time the rain starts.

They, of course, ignore the occasional homeless person sitting despondently by a building, whose refrigerator box won't keep out the rain. I see one shuffling off towards a park, where thick trees will be his roof tonight. The rich are rich, and the poor are poor. /Why?/

I force myself to believe that I have nothing to do with it, and continue walking. Most people in cities look up at buildings, not towards the ground. I always look downwards.

There are the usual pieces of litter on the ground, just like everywhere people inhabit, thrown into the gutter at random. Old packages of cigarettes, crushed cans, small grubby bits of paper that could belong to anything, hard specks of cardboard. It's fairly clean for a big city, just things people didn't want and didn't feel like taking the time to take care of. Things people abandoned... and sometimes things people lost and could never find. Just street trash.

It seems to me that people always seem reluctant to dirty a pristine area -- that they consciously avoid littering in a place where they will be the first offenders. But all it takes is one bit of garbage carelessly thrown or blown into place, and people begin to drop things. Little things, cigarette butts, bits of paper, gum wrappers. Gradually the things get larger and larger, newspaper sections, apple cores, empty bags. Eventually beer bottles, empty bags of drugs, aerosol cans, and used needles lie on the ground. This area is at the "little things" stage. Other colonies, such as L2-X18999, are perpetually at the most cluttered and horrible stage, and probably always will be.

I shudder invisibly. /Why?/

"You're losing your touch," something tells me with the ease and instinctiveness of a reflex. Like a reflex, I cannot make it go away. "You've got too much on your mind. Just don't think about it. It's easier like that anyway. You've got better things to do."

/Do I? Do I really?/

Well if I do, why did I come here?

The little voice disappears without a sound. He'll be back... he always is.

Why /did/ I come here, if not to think things over? If not to deal with what's bothering me? If not to finally try and take care of my mind?

Another voice. "That's right. You came here to do something about your... issue."

I did, didn't I. The option of a trip back to the circus is tempting, but impossible. They've probably left L1 -- I'm sure they have. In fact, I don't even know where they are right now. I guess I must have planned it this way, because it's all too convenient. But I don't remember planning this. It just sort of happened.

Among the people I consider friends, I'm not known for spontaneity. Perhaps I really am becoming a different person.

It happened because I have a problem. A problem I'm going have to think about. What was it Duo used to say? "What better time than now, what better place than here?" I'm certain that he didn't make that up, but it doesn't matter.

No one's around to hear me, so I might just go ahead and start talking. Talking to yourself is like being naked when you're alone. It really shouldn't matter -- but it does, somehow.

"I, Trowa Barton, have a problem."

I heard that admitting you have a problem is supposed to help. It doesn't.

Talking is out. It's just so fundamentally ridiculous -- why could simply /talking/ make anything better? -- but I can think. I have to think.

What's bothering me?

What caused me to come here?

It's been two years now since we won the war, and another six months since it almost flared up again. The world is at peace. Oz has been dissolved. The Romefeller Foundation has collapsed. Earth and the Colonies are reunited once again. We're at peace.

We got everything we wanted... but the world's still not /right/. People still distrust each other. People still ignore each other. People are still selfish and greedy and violent.

Was that what we were trying to do? Create a perfect world?

We all said we were fighting for peace. But was that really the truth?

Maybe not Heero, who seemed to regard the war as the sum total of a hundred thousand mission objectives. He fought for the sake of fighting, and for survival... a warrior if I've ever seen one.

Certainly not Duo, who told me once -- in more words -- that he'd witnessed the irredeemability of humankind during his tenure as a starving orphan. I'm sure that deep down, he'd seen so much greed and stupidity that he was convinced changing it was impossible. Amazing that, of all of us, Duo would be the most cynical. He fought for revenge.

Quatre was, I always felt, motivated partly by simple compassion and partly by rebellion against a dynasty... but not by an urge to create a perfect place. He fought for his family and the ones he loved. Whenever I think of that, I feel a twinge of envy. It must be nice to be able to choose to fight...

Those three were well-grounded, realistic... if not entirely level-headed. Of all of us, Wufei was probably the only one besides me who fought for an abstract ideal: the concept of justice. I never did understand his tirades on the subject, about how justice was all that mattered, how he would determine justice, how justice was inevitable for all...

Maybe I was the only one who fought because he wanted to create a paradise.

I frown and think back. It's only logical that a long-suffering person... and I do accept that I've withstood a lot... would aim to create a place where he would never have to feel pain again.

But I could be wrong about them. I really don't know. Of everyone I was closest to Quatre, and even his motivation was screened behind emotions. It's of course possible that secretly we all wanted to create a perfect place. I always felt as though that was somehow our ultimate objective... and perhaps the ultimate objective of all wars.

A car moves by, its motor humming. A momentary distraction. I wish a million cars would pass by. I wish something, anything, would happen to distract me or occupy me so that I didn't have to /think/ about this anymore.

But the thoughts return. Actually, that would make sense. What better reason to fight than to create a world where fighting isn't necessary?

I guess that many soldiers might feel like that sometimes, when the political whys and hows of the situation cease to justify more bloodshed. When they need a reason to go on, why not look to an ideal reward?

Then when they come home, they see the poverty and stupidity and idiocy of the human race and feel as though they didn't accomplish anything. And right now I don't feel as if I did.

I guess I'm just another old soldier.

I know that I accomplished something, a lot of things. But it seems almost... almost fantasy now, not real, somehow separated from reality by an unbreakable wall. It's as though we saw it all on television, or experienced it vicariously, or watched it through another's eyes. It's hard to accept, now, that we really did change the world. Just the passage of time.

And as far as politics go, we did. We attacked the problem and put a stop to it. But I think of that as attacking the symptom and not the cause.

All wars do is consume money and kill people. But this war was supposed to be different. It was supposed to allow peace by destroying the people that start wars. It was going to be the final conflict, the last fight the human race would ever have. It was supposed to be the final solution.

What a joke.

What a /joke/.

Were we right to stop the "original" Operation Meteor? Could White Fang's plan to purge half of humanity really have worked? Were we wrong all along?

I shudder again, more violently, still walking. I can't hide it from the world outside. But that doesn't matter, because no one's watching me. At least, I /think/ no one's watching...

/This was supposed to be heaven.../

/We were supposed to create a paradise. But all we did was throw away money and lives./

I feel a lump in my throat and sit down on a bench on a busy city street and try to keep from showing anything.

/Did I really think that I could change people's fundamental nature? Did I really think that I could make the world believe in peace when it's only achieved in war?/

I stare at the sand-colored pavement beneath my shoes. There are little grains of shining material embedded inside the artificial stone. Each one twinkles in the sparse afternoon sunbeams like a star glittering in a desert. A star shining with fire, fire of death, fire of destruction...

We were wrong.

/No./

We were wrong!

/This is heaven, you fool.../

Nothing changes. Nothing ever does.

/You're wrong.../

It was useless. All we did was kill. For no real reason, my eyes start burning. Perhaps this was why I left... to find a quiet place to cry. To find a lonely place to stay so that no one would see me dying...

/If this is heaven, I don't belong here. This isn't what I want./

I do the only thing I can to forget. I get up from the bench and walk for forty-five minutes without thinking of anything at all. I concentrate on my breathing. I listen to my heartbeat like Heero always does. He keeps time that way, you know. I try to walk without making a sound. I step on sidewalk cracks. I try not to step on sidewalk cracks. I do anything I can to avoid thinking about what we did.

That was close. I almost cried. I almost /cried/. Quatre once told me I cry in my sleep, but I didn't believe him. No. I can't let that happen again.

If I cry then everyone else will

/get angry/

WORRY, and if they worry they'll

/beat me/

GET CLOSE to me, and

/rape me/

TRY TO FIND OUT what's wrong, and when they're done they'll KNOW about it all...

/leave me/

And they'll decide that keeping me around isn't worth the effort.

The signs of rain are beginning to become more and more prominent as I move from the modern section to the old quarter. The offices are replaced by smaller dwellings, apartments above and shops below.

There are few tall buildings. In this section of the ciry, the springs and churches and religious relics the only things to see. The streets in the pedestrian zones, like few European cities today, are still cobblestone. I guess they've tried to preserve it as much as possible, but the worn round blocks feel odd under my tired feet. I lose my balance easily now. My coordination is gradually getting worse and worse with lack of rest.

I don't like to sleep because that's when I dream. I don't like to dream. Because things from my past...

/things I did, things other did to me, ways people hurt me, times I couldn't cry or speak, ways I've seen people die.../

...often appear there. I never remember the dreams either.

The worst kind of dream, worse than a nightmare, is a dream you cannot remember.

I always try to sleep before missions and performances, but that's because I need coordination then, and mental energy. And a need for vengeance, too, sometimes. I guess Duo would call it "psyching myself up". You'd never tell by looking at me that I'm tired. I've been awake for twenty-four hours and I'm just beginning to feel it. Or become aware of it. I guess if I'd thought of my feet six hours ago I'd have noticed them hurting then, too...

But regardless of having been up for four hours or forty hours, my face doesn't change. That's why people never seem to worry about my sleep, of lack of it. My face remains the same, placid, calm. It's as though the nerve endings and muscles have decayed from disuse.

I'm sure if I wanted to badly enough I could change my expression. I know sometimes it happens when I'm not even conscious of it. But not lately. Lately my face has been set in stone.

There's a fountain in this square with a statue of something or other inside it. Weary and weak, I walk up to it, sit down on the concrete rim, and read the plaque. There are lots of plaques in this city, these embossed bronze plates that they install on pedestals and fountains and cornerstones. The bizarre lettering style that they used is harder to comprehend than the language. I picked up German fairly easily during the frantic "crash courses" that they put the real Trowa through before the planned start of Operation Meteor. He never took the courses. Stealing the tapes that he discarded -- he was always lazy -- was easy.

This particular fountain has had a fairly ordinary history. Built in CE 1756, refurbished CE 1825, rebuilt CE 1919, rebuilt CE 1946, redesigned AC 13, restored AC 124.

I can see in the distance that it's raining, perhaps ten miles off. The twisted screens of water falling through the air look odd, alien.

It's nice to get off of my feet, so I stay sitting beside the fountain. But I'll have to get inside soon if I don't want to catch cold and--

Well, I have to get inside soon. Dying wouldn't be right to everyone. They'd get over it soon, but it still wouldn't be right to everyone. I owe people some things.

Yes, I should get inside -- but I won't die from cold. It might be sort of nice, out here in the rain in my long green coat. And I can sit back and think for a little while longer. About something else, anything else.

Something to take my mind off of the constant pain.

I'm beginning to wish I'd stayed back at the circus. That was a nice job; easy, just requiring concentration and courage. Neither was a problem. There were nice people there too, nice to me even though I was never really friendly to them. I guess on the road you make friends fast because you know you're going to lose them fast. The ringmaster was alright, though a bit gruff at first. He used to remind me of one of the growling lions, but he's gotten better. Two of the trapeze artists were prima donnas, but the other one was very decent. The guy they launched out of the cannon was quiet like me but was always smiling privately to himself, as though he were enjoying a grand joke. His wife was indifferent; but his daughter, an acrobat, always seemed to be happy.

I miss Catherine the most.

Not in a romantic way. Just the way you miss an old friend. Just the way that brothers miss their sisters.

She thinks she's my sister, and I pretend it's true sometimes. Sometimes it helps. It certainly makes her feel better.

Once I heard someone, Duo probably, but I can't really remember who -- say that she really resembled me. That maybe she really /was/ my sister. I remember frowning and shaking my head. "What are the chances of that happening?"

/What are the chances that life would work out that way?/

/What are the odds of that? It's utterly impossible./

Utterly ridiculous. In earth and in space, counting death tolls from the war, there are over eight billion humans alive today. Assuming that we were brother and sister, and that we were somehow separated at birth, the odds of me just /happening/ to apply to the same circus that she was working at, meeting up with her, becoming her friend... impossible. Totally impossible.

And yet I can't seem to shake the sense that there's some truth to that conjecture. Maybe just some of it. Maybe all of it. Call it instinct, call it madness. You could even call it "Space Heart". But I know that it's not just random guessing and roulette.

Maybe she's right, and I've been pretending something that was real...

My thoughts wander for the first time. /This was supposed to be heaven.../

I hear the first peals of thunder in the distance, and I can see the clouds emptying themselves of their cargo miles away. The view is nice from this square; you can see all the way up the street...

/Instead it's hell. We didn't save anyone. We didn't change anything./

I wonder if she cried when she found out I left the circus?

No. She won't. She's too strong to cry. Not at first, at least. And I'll be back before she can get more scared. Or I'll have contacted her. I remember her mail address, but she rarely checks it...

I sit and wonder about other things so I don't have to wonder about the important ones. I think about mundane things, odd things, random things; things to consider and recount. I wonder why, of all places to come, I came here, to Aachen...

/Start with the easy questions./

The departure routes for shuttles from L1 depend on the earth's rotation. The shuttle landing in Rome was the soonest. When I stepped into the train station in Rome, I picked a destination out at random. I ended up in Vienna. I picked another there. I ended up in Frankfurt. I picked another. Paris. Another. Brussels. Another. Aachen. All in forty-three hours.

All because I needed to be alone.

Well, if they try to find me by searching each city alphabetically, they'll find me pretty fast. But I'm not going to be missing for long. Just as long as it takes me to just /deal/ with all this. And it it takes too long, I might try again later. After all, time has little meaning to me.

The main reason that I would go back without facing my fear is that I don't want to worry Catherine. She's always known me as a very inexpressive person. And breaking down and crying in front of her wouldn't do at all. Her maternal instinct would cause her to try and find out what my problem is and it would be something she can't protect me from...

/heaven/

And she would be disturbed if I show up weeping and depressed... well, more depressed than usual. I wonder if she thinks of me as morose... despondent... morbid... I wonder what she'd think if I told her that I had to run away from her to deal with everything that's bothering me.... I wonder if--

"Trowa!"

Lower, this time. A tenor. A happy, startled tone.

/That can't be him. It's my mind. It's another thing to worry about./

/No, it's not him./

The thunder in the distance disappears, even though the rain will be here any second. It's probably no one, the feedback from a faulty mind. But that voice was too real to be fantasy. I know that voice; a little lower than usual, but still recognizable. It can't be anybody else. I spin around, get dizzy for a moment or two, and stand up despite the dull ache inside my brain.

Standing next to me in front of the fountain is Quatre. He's wearing a long expensive-looking coat over what looks to be a button-down shirt and a pair of khakis.

We lock eyes and suddenly neither of us have anything to say.

He's still shorter than me, is the first thing I notice. I was always the tall one... he's grown a few inches, but I've grown a few too. His youthful face is starting to shape itself into the stark lines of maturity, but he's still obviously Quatre -- just a year older. The blond hair is the same. The ever-present circles under his eyes are a little bit more prominent.

There's a slight subconscious wish that he'd do something, shake my hand, wave, hug me, kiss me...

If we were friends, he'd have his arms around me in an instant, I know him. He always hugs Duo. He even hugs Heero sometimes. And from the look in his eyes and his apparent embarassed reluctance to really do anything, I can see that if we're anything at all...we're not simply friends.

Quatre is not my friend. I realize that much...

So what is he?

Are we anything, then? Does he consider us... "us"... that worthless? Do I think the same of him, beneath it all? Has he forgotten the casual way we used to be, so intimate and yet so far apart? Or has it been this way all along? Or does he consider "us" so intimate that we don't need to touch each other? Are we so close that physical contact isn't necessary?

/After all this time, are we more than friends or less than friends?/

I blink at him, confused. He walks the few paces to me, a smile on his face and in his eyes, and gives me a long but somehow chaste hug. I wrap my arms around him as though we're being casual, somehow...

Mmmm. I hold his warm, lean body for a second longer that I really should, then relax away.

Thought too soon.

It's natural that he'd be the one to break the silence. He intones, softly, "Tschues, Trowa."

His german sounds excellent... or maybe I just like the sound of his voice. Probably both of the two. There's this odd, almost...japanese... roll of the 'r' in my name that he always uses and that I like a lot. It's not slurred into one syllable like when my name's pronounced in French; it's divided into three. To-roh-ah. The middle syllable is done by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth and performing the beginning of a trill; it sounds like an r and an l and a d at once. Like when Heero and Wufei are talking about Relena... they almost say, "Dee-dee-na." I guess it's the asian languages that do it. We've been speaking japanese too much.

Am I imagining it, or does he sound out the name like it's special? Different? The sounds don't matter... just the way he says it. It sounds like it's delicate and fragile and beautiful. I wonder if it's just German pronounciation clashing with the habit of speaking Japanese. They're awfully hard languages to reconcile...

I wonder if he really thinks my name is so important.

I'm momentarily stunned by the greeting. If I try to talk, I'll stutter and mumble. Eventually I choke out, "Guten Tag, Quatre." Why can't I show him the same respect and admiration he's showed me?

He smiles, as though he's happy I remembered who he was. I forget faces easily, but I could never forget his. What a thought.

"Na... aber das ist wuenderbar! Ich habe fuer einen Jahr du nichts gesehen! Wie geht's?"

Translating German is easy. Nearly all of it is English and Dutch cognates, and I know both of those. (Well, but this is wonderful! I haven't seen you for a year! How is everything?)

He's almost laughing at the end as though it's a novelty for us to talk in German. I guess we've never talked in this language before...probably because we haven't been here together before. But we have been in Austria... I know why I don't like speaking German.. I'm terrible at finding words that don't sound aggressive. Everything sounds so formal and harsh. Totally unlike him... totally inappropriate...

"Quatre... m, meine Deutsch ist wirklich sehr schlecht. Er... kann wir ins Englisch sprechen, bitte...?" (My german is really very bad. Can we talk in english, please?) That sounded really stupid. What sort of thing is that to say to a friend who you've just met for the first time in a year? The sort of thing I'd say, no doubt...

He shrugs as though he doesn't see the point. "Aber deine Deutsch is sehr schoen." (But your german is very beautiful/good/nice.)

"I'm better at finding... words in english."

"That's okay...." Then, suddenly, nervously, as though he's rushing through a prepared script: "Wow! I didn't think you'd be here! I thought you were with the circus..."

I sputter helplessly, of course. My face doesn't move, but my eyes betray my embarassed confusion. I hadn't figured I'd run into anyone I knew here. "I was. I am. I just took a little time off to... to.. er.."

I fall silent. Somehow it's easy to lie to everyone but Quatre. It's even harder to make up something and tell it to him. It's as though he always knows when you're telling the truth... maybe he does.

"Would Japanese help?"

I attempt to smile, but it doesn't seem to work well. "I'm looking for a concept, not a word." I can put up a mask, but never change the mask's expression. And if I take off the mask... well then, I won't /need/ to smile anymore...

"That's okay too," Quatre replies softly and glances upwards. "We can talk about this later. I felt a raindrop... we should get somewhere inside. This storm's going to be strong." I don't feel anything... wait. There. One, another, two more. It's starting fast. I can hear the roar of the rainstorm's central part only a few miles away.

My own health isn't a factor now, but Quatre's is. If he wants to go inside, well, then, we'll go inside. I always seem to be smarter when there are people to take care of around me... people around who care about me.

Does he care about me?

"Do you know of anywhere we can go?" Stupid, stupid me. You're always supposed to make some sort of arrangements...

The blond pilot -- no, ex-pilot -- turns with his back to me and gestures off down a street. "I've got a room in a hotel up the street. Unless you've... er... got somewhere to be, we can wait out the storm there..." His voice sounds hopeful in some way, eager, willing and ready...

"Really?" I silently thank some unnamed diety that he came prepared and didn't ask /me/ if I had a place to stay... because I don't, and I know he'd get worried about how I was taking care of myself... Catherine's told me enough...

A cruel, random voice: /What do you care what he thinks of you? What anybody thinks of you?/

My conscious mind: /What sort of question is _THAT_? I care a lot about what he thinks of me./

The voice again: /You don't care at all. You like to worry them. You like making them feel inadequate. You like it because it makes you feel real, makes you feel like you're not--/

My subconscious, steadfast, deadpan: /My name is Trowa Barton./

The voice: /You're not fooling anyone./

"That sounds good."

Quatre looks back at me with an approving look in his eyes. The raindrops are falling like thick beads, exploding on the dark ground in wet flashes of liquid crystal. The sun disappears for one last time, and the world is suddenly bathed in a wash of gray. "It's only a few blocks, and if we run, we can probably make it before it really gets heavy."

I'm too tired to really run. But something in his eyes tell me that it might be worth it, just trying.

I guess he sees the way I move when I take a step. "Well, we don't really have to run. A little water never hurt anybody, right, Trowa?"

"Uh-huh." Walking feels wierdly different after I've been up for a while, like the arches of my feet are flattening out. I find it helps a little to step directly on the cobblestones so that they push the centers of my feet upwards.

We move across the stones and out of the pedestrian section where cars aren't permitted, into the always-busy thoroughfares of european traffic. It's hard concrete now lining the streets of the business district. I'd like to walk a little slower, but, well, as he said, we do have to get out of the rain...

He looks around and says, "I feel as if I know this city."

I shake my head. "I've never been here before."

"That's odd, because neither have I."

A block later, he starts again. "Have you ever read a book that you've been certain you've read before, even though you know you've never even touched it? Or have you ever been to a place and thought that you /knew/ it, you could easily find your way around, as though you'd walked through there without a care some forgotten time before?"

Is he trying to make conversation...? Perhaps he's as nervous as I am...

"I can't say I have."

"Oh."

The nagging voice, back once more: /Do you? Does it really matter? Does HE really matter?/

/Of course he matters. He matters a lot./

Quatre looks back at me and I see his blue eyes tinged with concern and doubt. He may be able to tell if you're lying, but he's always been a bit too expressive. You can read Quatre like a book.

He's worried about me.

I walk a little faster and ignore my protesting eyes and my feet.

In the space of ten seconds, the shower turns into a typhoon. The spitting rain gets louder, pounding against the ground like shotgun pellets against a wall. It's beginning to sting my shoulders even through my jacket. We've reached the stage in any thunderstorm when there are /so/ many drops falling /so/ fast that the ground is obscured in a blur of splashing spitting foam.

Quatre produces an umbrella... yellow, for some reason... from somewhere in his overcoat and unfolds it with some difficulty. I get under it with him, brushing against the coated material of his garment. The umbrella is actually too small to fully cover both of us, but we try and get close together. It's nice, brushing against his warmth beneath the rain-slick fabric. I could get used to this...

The smell of the rain is something I've always enjoyed, the fresh scent of water and wind and moisture through the air. I've never really known how it gets that way... perhaps by washing away all the dust and dirt that's perpetually floating through the atmosphere. It speaks of new days and new opportunities. Quatre smells nice, too, as we lean into each other underneath the umbrella.

He looks up at the brightly colored umbrella and examines it, then twirls it around playfully with his hand, rotating it. Suddenly, a sound buried in the rain: his shy soft voice singing a simple melody... "Oh, mais je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi..."

Now he's speaking... singing... French. (Oh, but I could never live without you...)

/....What?/

He sees my expression and inclines his head, then laughs. "It's from an old movie one of my sisters used to watch. I always think of that one tune when I see umbrellas. Especially wierdly colored ones."

Like putting on a leather glove, we fall into our accustomed places in conversation. It's hard to believe that it's been a year... and before that, another one. It's as though the two years never happened, like we're back in one of his houses talking... or at least trying to. We were always sort of seperate from Heero, Wufei, and Duo; sort of off to the side, talking about little things. Mostly he did the talking, though. I liked to listen to him talk, and I still do.

But I can't just listen. I have to talk to keep a "conversation" going with him. Too bad he can't read my mind. "Umbrellas?"

I remember Duo telling me on one occasion that I should try to talk more, though I never really understood why. I always get the feeling that if I just stopped talking altogether Quatre would still speak to me, knowing what I wanted to hear, answering my unspoken questions.

I've always been afraid to try it.

Quatre's eyes attain that unique glow they get when he explains something, and I'm suddenly glad I asked. "Sure. I actually forget what it's called, but it takes place back around CE 1950. It's about two people who're madly in love, but get separated, and they eventually find other people who're almost as good as their first loves, but not quite."

"That doesn't sound very romantic." Please, Quatre. Explain more. Talk to me more. Talk to me about romance. Just talk about anything.

Quatre shrugs. "Well, of course not. It's all in the execution... the whole things's a musical, even sort of an opera, because every word is sung. But when you try to explain anything in that few words you can't do it justice--"

He cuts off, obviously realizing that I usually speak less words in a day than he does in a minute. He shakes his head, amending his statement. It's the same Quatre I knew a year ago. Still worried about me feeling wrong, bad, inedequate...

He knows so much about me, more than nearly anyone. So why does he worry about offending me?

"I mean, trying to explain something complex, like a story or a work of art, in very simple terms, almost always fails to really describe it."

"I disagree." That sounded so forced, so hollow. Why don't I just shut my mouth and let him do the talking? That remark came out without reason or bidding. I'm losing more and more control over what I do and say.

At least my face is still in its usual deadpan, but that's hardly a blessing.

Quatre looks at me. "Why?"

I think of something and quietly intone, "Because very complex things are always used to /say/ something very simple."

He returns his glance to the sidewalk ahead of us, as though to terminate contact. No, he returns his gaze to me. "I see what you mean. It doesn't matter whether the heroine's name is Genvieve or Juliet, or whether it takes place in AD 1950 or AC 197, or what the city it takes place in is called... You're saying it's all about the message, then? The theme?"

"Yes." He just argued my case for me, as though he opened my head and took out that little speech. I guess most people would be offended, but I'd much rather he tell me what I'm thinking than the alternative. I'm even flattered that he does that. But then, he can't know that... He'll never know the weight our quiet conversation carries, my slow short questions and his rambling, beautiful answers to those questions.

He'll never know how much /he/ means to me.

He'll never know because I could never tell him, I'd choke, I'd gasp, I'd clam up. And my face never says a word either. My eternally calm and silent face could never tell anyone anything.

All I can do is ask questions and hope he moves towards the answers I want. I've got one question that I can ask, and a million I can't... "What /is/ the message?"

He looks at the rain falling in front of us for a moment and then says softly, "That once you find someone you love, you should stand by them through thick and thin. It's... I guess you could call it a cautionary tale."

/Once you find someone you love, you should stand by them through thick and thin./

We speed up our strides and really look at each other. I've never gotten this close to his face before. It's a sensation I really like, though. I always imagine his blond hair as keeping the same soft shape, but the rain that touched it managed to tangle some of the strands into a wierd half-wet half-dry mass, strands sticking up and down here and there, soaked parts flat against his forehead and temples dripping into his eyes. I imagine he's looking at my hair too...

And I know my hair looks ridiculous in the rain. And I know my constant deadpan expression looks ridiculous with my hair. And I'd change both if I could.

"Does your hair always do this in the rain, Trowa?"

He notices. Of course he does.

"Uh-huh." It's true. Right now my bangs seem to be plastered over half of my face, completely obscuring one eye.

"If you don't mind my saying so... you look really silly. Not bad silly... good silly."

I don't say anything. I look silly all the time at the circus. Looking silly is my job. Ironic, isn't it? A clown that can barely smile?

The rain keeps pouring down as we travel down the street, by now alternating between a walk and a run. Quatre's cuffs flap against his ankles and wrists as a particularly strong gust of wind rips along like a train. Five short minutes of walking/running later and he stops in front of a brightly lit building, the glass doors illuminated by soft orange light.

"Here we are."

I look away from his face long enough to glance up at the marquee. The place's name is vaguely known to me; it's part of an upscale chain of hotels. It's not the absolute cream of the crop... Relena wouldn't think of staying here, in other words... but it's still more than comfortable.

Quatre shuts the umbrella and opens the door. Inside it's warm and dry, and assorted faceless businessmen and women stride across the room to and from the main doorway. The entrance to the hotel is a three-story high modern-looking chamber resembling the lobby of an art museum. Odd, unsymmetrical light fixtures and sculptures hang down on threads from the ceiling. Somewhere, soft piano music plays without a melody. My shoes squeak across the polished floor of the lobby. It resembles marble, for some reason, the kind that's tight with little lines and mottlings.

Quatre leads me to a dark silver elevator and pushes the call button. We both glance nervously at each other, then simultaneously look away, pretending to be just scanning the area. Must be a reflex.

/What are you getting so worked up about? You're just going to his room. Just going there because it's raining and you want to listen to him and be with him.../

The elevator arrives and we let everyone leave before we get on. Even though I haven't been a wanted man for years, I still breathe a silent sigh of relief that no one's recognized me...

That starts me to start thinking what I should've been thinking in the first place. Paranoia is a part of me. Perhaps too much a part. I wish I could ignore the truth. But I can't.

And the truth is that it's all too convenient.

"Quatre, " I begin, glancing around at the brushed-metal interior of the elevator, "Why /are/ you here in Aachen?"

"Oh, yeah. We were talking about it back in the park, and then the rain started.. Well, Trowa, the gist of it is that..." He looks at the button panel with fixed interest. Second floor. He looks much older for a moment. "I needed to get away from everything. You know what I mean? Just sort of... I don't know... /Deal./" Third floor.

Fourth floor.

"Deal?"

Fifth floor.

Sixth floor.

"Yeah, 'deal' with.... I don't know... anything and everything. All the things I've always meant to think about. Is that why you're--"

I nod. I wish I could smile or say, "Yes Quatre, that's absolutely correct, what an amazing coincidence, let me tell you..." but all I can do is move my solid face up and down.

Seventh floor.

"Well, I think I understand what you mean. There was just too much going on, too many things expected of me running the business... All these business decisions, this pending merger we've got going on with a subsidiary of Shinhama Tech... Basically the deal is done. But the minutiae have to be worked out... by a lot of insecure executives who're looking to me to make their decisions for them."

I'm not too well versed in the business world, so I stay quiet, leaning against the metal walls and shifting my weight to other parts of my feet. I'm tired. "I love my father.. but the sad truth of the matter is that he left the holdings in a terrible mess. I don't know how he chose his board of--"

The elevator door opens and he clams up suddenly. I give him a meaningless glance that seems to encourage him as he leads me off the elevator.

"Well, anyway, I had to fire a couple of the real incompetents, then replace them. As soon as the people get used to each other everything will be fine... the current board of directors is perfectly capable of running the business, even without me. They just need a little independence; or rather, independence from a CEO that they can easily shift their responsibilities towards. I figured that I'd do everyone a favor by disappearing for a little while so they can get used to taking responsibility for.. ah. We're here."

Quatre fishes in his pocket and pulls out a keycard, glances at it, frowns slightly, and fishes out another one. "Here we go." With a swipe and a click, we're in a well-furnished hotel suite; almost an apartment. A large room with a television and a comfortable-looking sofa, chairs, a small minibar, a door to what may be a small kitchen, a door to a bedroom, and a door to another unnamed room, perhaps a closet. By the entranceway is of course a door to a bathroom.

Alone. Together.

I feel less claustrophobic than I thought I would.

He closes the door self-consciously and taps the keypad. I think for a moment that if everyone was like Quatre, we wouldn't need to lock our doors.

He hangs up his raincoat and props his umbrella in the corner by the stand. I hang up my jacket on a handy hook. The water rolls down its surface onto the floor.

Quatre strolls into the bathroom, shivering slightly. In an extremely odd-looking shaking movement, he snaps the water out of his hair, splattering the tiles and mirror, and grabs two towels.

Suddenly I'm reminded of the time Duo got really really drunk and started singing Led Zeppelin songs... we'd all heard them before because he played them all the time. And he was actually pretty good: he got the falsetto and everything, which surprised me.

How time passes...

I catch a towel and start drying my head off. Hotel towels always feel hard and artificial, as though they've been woven from plastic wool. I remember the last time I was in a hotel with him.

"Well, anyway, I came here to forget about all that."

/But why here?/

I'm curious about one more thing, extremely curious. I wonder if he can see I'm slightly suspicious of him. "Quatre... why Aachen?"

He smiles at me and shrugs. I can feel part of me melting. Something inside me, modest and prude, shouts, /he doesn't HAVE to look at me that way!/ I know it. But I like it more than I feel discomfort. I can be intimate with him.

"First place I saw a plane departing to. It's also the last place anyone would look for me, aside from Indochina or Zimbabwe. How about you?"

/It's too similar. What are the chances that we'd end up in the exact same city at the exact same time for the exact same reason?/

/What are the odds of that? It's utterly impossible./

/It's another random chance linking my past and present together. Like Catherine and me... reunited.... by fate. There has to be some reason for it all, some point, some underlying scheme.../

/Two insane coincidences in one's life is one too many./

"There's absolutely no other reason that you're here?"

/12457 airports, spaceports he could have departed from and arrived from. 1032 different railway lines he could have used to get to this city. Fifteen different subway lines in Aachen.../

"Not that I know of," he smiles somewhat bemusedly, then turns serious and pins me down with a serious look. "I realize that you came here for the same reasons I did. I realize that this is random. And I especially realize that right now you're calculating exactly what the odds are that this would happen."

Out of respect for him, I immediately stop my mental machinations.

He starts talking, perhaps a little more agitated than I feel comfortable seeing him. "Well, Trowa, I think it's odd too. Extremely odd. We start off on seperate colonies, go to random places, and end up in the same hotel room. This is incredibly unlikely This is almost impossible."

I say nothing because I can't think of anything.

"But, well, shouldn't we make the best of it? Does the question /why/ really matter so much as the question of /what now/?"

"What now?"

"Yeah. We're here, aren't we? What do you want to do?"

He's avoiding the subject. It's too big. It's too obvious. I open my mouth, sounding too accusing. "It's absolutely impossible."

He balks and then replies softly, "Nothing is impossible, Trowa. Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are. I really am...."

He's not fooling me. I can't lie to him... but apparently he can't lie to me either. He speaks too fast, his face flushes, his teeth chatter.

"I was walking out of the Mullerstrasse station past the square, and then I saw you, and I did a double-take, and there was no mistaking you, and--"

He struggles helplessly. "And then...."

"You're a bad liar, Quatre." I cut him off. "I know you followed me."

He's silent. Why did I have to sound that way? Why did I have to accuse him of something that I'm actually glad he did?

"How did you know?" He sounds hurt because he IS hurt. He's disappointed that I didn't trust him. He's disappointed that I feel the need to question HIS motives... the motives of my best friend.

Perhaps, my only friend...

"Because I didn't follow /you/."

Then he turns and looks out the window, watching the raindrops explode on the thick glass. There should be a flood of them running down the building's smooth exterior by now, forming a lake on the sidewalks and alleys. But, strangely enough, on the ground, we never really see much water running off the sides of buildings... I wonder why that is.

/I want to be with you... so why am I making it so hard on both of us?/

His voice is mournful, as though he's committed some sort of sin. "I should know better than to try and fool you, Trowa."

/He's sad... concerned... anxious. As well he should be./

/Everyone knows that I'm more than capable of hurting./

/And now he thinks I'm angry./

/And I would love to just tell him that I'm not angry, that I don't mind./

This wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want to upset him. I've never wanted to do anything of the sort. He continues softly, oblivious to my regret. Why can't I just take it back...?

/But I can't find the words.../

Quatre's still staring at the window. I can barely see the reflection of his blond hair.

"Trowa, I came here because I wanted to find you. But what I said wasn't..." he strokes his face with his hand." It wasn't all lies. What I really came to do -- WHY I really came -- is to ask you something. And I thought the question was... worth it."

I stand there, stock still, arms too stiff and legs too weak. Hair plastered to my face. I must look ridiculous. And he's still a little bit scared of me because he knows me, and he knows that the way I look doesn't matter. I have to try and do something. I have to try and make him understand...

"...F...For yourself?"

"For me and a friend." I know who. It has to be her. Only she would send him looking for me. Only she would worry enough to call him after he'd been gone for seventy-two hours.

I wonder idly what their phone conversation sounded like. "He's been acting differently, you know." "Really?" "...Yes." "I wish I could do something..." "Perhaps you can..."

I feel both violated and happy, somehow. They have no business looking into my life, even though I desperately want them inside of it. And I feel flattered... /flattered/ and amused... that they'd care enough about me to worry.

The voices start again.

/We were trying to create a paradise.../

Not now. No, not now.

There's no doubt about it. "Catherine."

She always was vaguely jealous of him... but I suppose he was all she had when I disappeared, someone who cared about me and could find me. She was worried, so worried she'd forget the grudge she has with him...

He sighs and aquiesces."...Yes." Almost as an afterthought: "...And of course you know how I found you."

/but all we did was kill./

"GPS nanomachines." Now I sound technical. Why can't I ever sound right when I talk to him? "You bugged me?"

He turns to me, and I think I can see something shimmering in his eyes. "I bugged everyone, Trowa, from the first possible moment I could. I had to."

/Why, Quatre? Why did you have to know I was alive? Is it for the reason I'd like to think it is?/

"I'm fairly sure Duo had bugs on us, and I'm positive Heero still does. It was something I had to do, considering the circumstances..."

/But it was more than professional responsibility. I can see it in your face. I can see it in the way your thumbs are in your pockets. I can see it in the way your legs are shaking./

He keeps talking, giving me the incidental details. "...They only work on earth, though; so when we were on-colony they were pretty much useless..."

"How did you do it?" That's professional knowledge that I need. Or needed. Somehow, when he's around, I seem to forget that the war's all over.

IS it all over?

A second of silence, then: "Trowa, even you ate enough food at my places to accept a few nanomachines."

I collapse into a green chair and try to think for a moment or so.

Well, a subtle jab at my eating habits. I wonder what he'd say if he knew how much the men used to hurt me when I ate too much of whatever food we had. I wonder if thinks there's any real /reason/ I barely eat a thing. Perhaps he dismisses as just another personality quirk, another little Trowa-ism. I wonder if he watches how much Duo and Heero and Wufei eat. I wonder how much he notices about them.

But I'm glad he told me.

I don't care about the machines, even though anyone with the correct frequency and encryption algorithm could potentially know where I am at any time. I give that much to him... I let him have that much trust because talking about it is hard enough. It's difficult for him to reveal all of this. It's hurting him. And I never wanted to hurt him. Why did I have to go and say that? Why does he have to make me feel this way?

/I didn't mean to stop you. I'd have answered your question anyway. Why did I have to talk...?/

/I'm so stupid.../

/I didn't mean any of it.../

Then he pins me with a look so sad and desperate that I can't help but freeze sitting in my chair. His voice catches as he talks, as though he has to avoid voicing the contractions in his throat.

"Trowa... I'm sorry." He falters, stuttering over the words. I can tell he's not lying. Suddenly I want him to stop, not because it hurts me but because it hurts him.

/This isn't necessary!/

"I'm...really sorry. Please believe at least that much."

Now what have I done? Without trying, I've managed to make him so sad... so unhappy. Am I really that unresponsive and deadpan? Is reading me really that hard? I have to try and fix the situation. I have to make him forgive me...

I almost made him cry.

"Quatre..." I manage to say, "It's all right. I don't mind."

"Do you mean that?" It's not an accusation at all. It's a gentle request, a bidding to think about what I feel. And it's somehow so completely innocent, so perfectly and eternally pure. He's perfect and clean and I'm dirty...

The answer is simple. I don't mind. If anything I should be the one who's feeling bad. It was honest concern that brought him here, and I forgot that. I acted as though he was a spy on my trail....

"Of course." Then I try to say something else, anything that'll improve the situation. "...You were always welcome."

He swallows once and looks into my eyes. It's not that he doesn't want to believe me... it's that he simply won't allow himself to. Denial works in reverse for Quatre.

He speaks. "I just want to ask you one thing. Just a question. You don't even have to answer it. It's really from Catherine as well as me. And after that, if you want... well, I'll be happy to leave you alone..."

I always thought I wanted to be alone.

But not now.

Not with him.

/Once you find someone you love, you should stand by them through thick and thin./

/I never wanted you to leave! Stay, please stay... I want to talk to you... be with you... I need you.../

And my face can't express anything. My voice can't express anything.

My body can't express anything.

Only my mind can really /know/. My mind is sealed from him.

My wires are cut. My nerves are gone. I can't speak. I can't feel. I can't tell him with my eyes. I can't tell him with my hands. Nor with my voice or face.

I can't tell him that I'm not angry, and that he was always welcome, and that I've been so suspicious and treated him as though he was worthless.

All I can say is force out, "I'm sorry." But it doesn't sound right.

And he smiles.

He knows.

He understands.

But he still doesn't believe in me. Or in himself. His voice shakes as he murmurs, "Tell me that after I ask you my question."

/What could he ask me that could possibly change the fact that I don't want him to leave again?/

"What is the question, Quatre?"

Quatre clears his throat and I look into his deep eyes. There's tension there, fear, but also a strange sort of excitement... he wants to know the answer, I'm sure, as badly as Catherine does...

"Trowa, the question is... why did you leave? The circus, I mean. What did you need to think about that you couldn't tell Catherine... or me?"

I thought it was going to be worse than that.

Leave it to Catherine to send Quatre here to ask me a completely obvious question.

Still and all, I'd like to refuse to answer. I'd like to clam up and never speak a word again. But I owe it to him to tell him. It's my responsibility. I owe it to him. I've caused him pain.

He's bled for me. And I'm more than willing to meet it drop for drop.

/Once you find someone you love, you should stand by them through thick and thin.../

/So why DID I leave? Leave our little group for the circus? Leave HIM for Catherine's motherly, absolute love? Leave Catherine because even with that, I couldn't be happy?/

I sit down on the sofa and earnestly think, subconsciously glad to get off of my tired feet. I'm in no danger of drifting off to sleep, but the rest feels pleasant. "Because..." I shut up for a second, ten seconds, a minute, not knowing where to begin. "Because..."

/Why don't you tell him the truth?/

/Because I don't know the truth. Because I'm scared that he'd laugh at the truth. Because I know he'd have a perfectly rational explanation for the truth and then what would I look like?/

/Because I'm scared of the truth. Because I don't know what the truth will do to me./

He senses that this is difficult, and sits down in the chair across from me without making a sound. "You can tell me, Trowa," he says softly.

He believes in me.

And I don't think that I have anything to believe in. At least, I don't know how to say it.

Once again, my face and voice do nothing.

He gives me an open look, encouraging me. But I can't tell him. It'll burden him with a weight that I'm meant to carry.

"But..."

"What?" Encouraging. Too encouraging. I don't think I'll be able to resist...

"It's.." I think he can hear the panic in my voice. I'm sure he can.

/We were supposed to create a paradise.../

Can I lie? Is lying possible? Of course -- my life is a lie. My existence is a lie.

Can I lie to /him/?

Is it possible?

Can I try? Do I want to try? Will he know somehow? The way he sometimes seems to know exactly when to talk to me, when to leave me alone, when to speak?

Logically, there should be nothing wrong with telling him. But when /he/ tried to lie to me... I saw right through it. Transparent, fake. Too much emotion in some places, too little in others. It's hard to lie if you're not used to lying. Just like it's hard to fight if you're not used to fighting.

We're all used to fighting. We're all used to being hurt.

I suppose the reason that I don't want to tell him is because I don't want to hurt him. I know he'd try to get involved, and then he'd see how worthless and fucked-up and crazy I am. He'd probe around and talk in that soothing, compassionate way of his. And soon he'd know everything about me. Everything. All the scars I hide. All the weight I bear. All the pain I take.

And then he'd leave me. For all his good intentions and his believing in me and his friendship, I still know that one day he will be gone.

And that would hurt me.

But I know it would hurt him too.

If I know anything in this world, it's that pain is worth avoiding. And by telling him something, anything that's not real-- a lie, a half-truth, a tall tale -- I will prevent HIM from having to endure it.

I'll take the pain instead. I know enough about it. I'm used to it.

I can't tell him because I don't want him to get involved. I can't tell him because I don't want him to know what the issues really are. I can't tell him because I don't want him to go away. I can't tell him because I want him around, want him near me.

I can't tell him because he's my friend. I can't tell him because I don't want to hurt him.

Something begins to sting behind my eyes. I hear his voice, slightly startled. "Trowa...?" He's much more perceptive than people think he is...

I look over at him for a while. When we were jumping from school to school with the other pilots, no one could believe that he was fifteen. He was too small and too beautiful. Too pure.

Hurting Quatre would be like hurting a child. A strong child, yes -- resourceful, intelligent. Able to cope. If he isn't absolutely prepared to face everything that I fear, then if I tell him I will become the people that I hated so much...

He would never be the same again. He'd lose something. He'd lose something that I barely had.

Perhaps he noticed that my eyes are beginning to get wet. He sounds scared, almost fascinated. If he knew what he might know... if he knew the truth... "Is something wrong...?"

/I've been raped./

/I've been tortured./

/And I've been used./

/THAT'S what's wrong. THAT'S why my eyes are wet. THAT'S why I feel like curling up into a tiny ball, throwing up, ending it all./

/They broke my soul. They took my body. They made me an adult when I was still a child. They killed a part of me. They forced the truth onto me -- the truth of death, destruction, blank red happy carnage. They caused me pain like nothing else could./

/And I'll be damned if I'll do the same to the only friend I ever had./

/I'll be damned if I'll corrupt him./

/I'll be damned if I'll hurt him with what hurt ME./

And suddenly everything begins to hurt ten times as much.

"...Trowa?!" I emit a hacking cough.

And I know it's going to happen. Inevitable. Unavoidable. For the first time in years, it's going to happen.

I'm going to cry.

It's too soon since my previous attack. I came too close on the street. Too soon since I've been worrying about him. I can't hide it any longer. I look at the floor and the choking lump in my throat is back again. I look at him and my face starts to burn. I close my eyes for a moment and I can feel them red and raw. They're wet, burning. I blink but it spreads the drops of hot liquid around.

/All we did was kill people.../

I look around, confused. What's going on? What's this hot feeling behind my eyes...?

/No! NO! I'm not supposed to cry! If I cry they'll--/

I suddenly remember when I cried and they beat me, and that makes it much, much worse.

/All we did was kill people.../

It's too much, too much to bear. Too much hatred and pain stored in those tears. Too much pressure. Too much time.

/change human nature.../

Too much pain.

/Heaven/

A small, frightened whimper, pleading for some help or some hope, twists its way out of my throat. It's an alien sound, grating, like the low squeak of wet boots on bark.

/Oh, God.../

/This was supposed to be heaven.../

Another. I bow my head over my tired legs in shame. Another whimper.

Quatre's voice, alarmed. "Trowa? Are you okay? Why are you..."

My hands grip the felt-like arms of the chair like a man in an electric chair grips the arms. I can feel my fingernails sliding over smooth green fabric pile, leaving little white trails of raised fuzz material.

White sparks tickle my spine as I shiver with cold...

/No, not here, not in front of him! Get back where you belong!/

/Don't let him worry! Don't let Catherine worry! Don't let anyone worry!/

Impossible to stop.

Naked.

Vulnerable.

Weeping like a child or an animal.

Hopeless.

Helpless.

The whimpers gradually increase in frequency and pain and volume until they're full-fledged sobs. I can't stop it. I'm drowning.

Glancing up into a mirror -- hotels always have them -- , I can see that my deadpan mask is still in place. My face is still the same. My eyes are still calm. My mouth is still straight and closed. My skin is smooth, unwrinkled by grief. There are no lines, no tight ridges, no pain-valleys, just tears streaming down my cheeks.

Is it possible to cry without moving your face, I wonder? Am I doing that now? Am I able to do /even that/ by now?

Is anything left behind my stoic face? Have I /become/ my face?

I'm crying. And my face still doesn't twist or change.

/IT DOESN'T CHANGE!/

I gradually feel myself losing more and more control. I can't see anything through the tears. I can barely gasp for air. Drowning in grief... slowly losing awareness of the surroundings... gasping for air that won't come... shivering, convulsing. I can feel the tears on my unchanging face, and I can hear the shrieking sobs piercing the soft hum of the heating and the rain outside.

The tears roll down my mask, fall through the air for a tiny slice of time, and are absorbed in the pile carpet. I can't stop because the pain doesn't stop. I can't think because I'm too busy /feeling/ to think. It hurts so much... It's getting so cold... It's so much to bear, too much for anyone to bear alone...

Everything's cold...

Everything's empty...

After a few failed attempts to stop, I wonder if I've finally lost it entirely, decide I have, and just... give up on trying. It's easy.

In fact, it's the easiest thing in the world.

A drowning swimmer choking and moving, gasping desperately for air, and then relaxing, still, lungs filling, brain dying. Floating in unconscious pain. Floating in a sea of tears. Suspended underwater, gently bobbing up and down, blood beginning to slow down...

But then...!

Something happens.

Something I would never have expected.

Something warm is wrapping itself under my arms and against my neck. Something soft and comforting is nuzzling against my face. Something bright and radiant is pulling me out of the sea. Something is breathing new life into my lungs, filling my tired blood with new purpose and new passion.

Something -- someONE -- is telling me it's okay to cry.

Someone is telling me that he'll accept it all, he wants to, he'll listen to whatever I want to say, that it's all right, that he'll try to make it stop...

Someone, for the first time, is telling me that they care.

A voice inside my head, clear as day. A new one, a familiar one. A reassuring one... /Shh...everything's okay... everything's going to be--/

He pulls me free and I see his face.

--Just fine," Quatre finishes, whispering, slightly shaken but still reassuring, comforting. His voice sounds like harps. "It's okay, Trowa."

I look up at him and stop sobbing in a soft gasp, drained and numb and shocked. He's sitting beside me on the chair. He hugs me closer and I bury my face in the still-damp warmth of his smooth blond hair. We sit there, both of us squeezed together in a close but not uncomforable way, silent, watching the circles of water slide down the glass outside.

After a little while I seem to remember something else, jolting me back to reality. I don't know why but I close my eyes. I can't see Quatre anymore. I squeeze them together, like something acidic and stinging is between them.

It feelt good to let it out, but shameful to do it here... and with him. It feels good being in his arms, but bad when I remember why. I try not to remember. I try not to think at all.

Eventually the ragged breathing returns to normal and I'm just shaking, cold, damp, clutching desperately to Quatre. Stifled convulsions, hiccups. I can smell the rain still in his hair and his clothes. He's been keeping me so warm...

Finally I manage to form words. "...I'm sorry."

Something in his face seems hurt. "Why?"

I can't say anything.

"Don't be... I'm the one who should be apologizing." His voice has gotten a little higher. It's sweet, melodious, somehow comforting by its presence alone. I'm beginning to feel a little better.

"After all, I was the one who asked. I shouldn't have..."

A silent gasp for air. No, he's wrong. I'm the only guilty one. It's all my fault...

Gently:. "Trowa... your face never really changes, does it?"

He's picked it up. "...Not much. Not anymore."

"Can you make it change?"

I don't say anything.

I don't have to answer. His eyes widen with confirmation, panic, shame, terror, compassion. He knows. He knows that my face never moves. It's as though it's carved out of the marble we walked on earlier.

But instead of pulling away or abandoning me, he looks into my eyes and gently bumps his forehead into mine. I'm so close to him... we're suddenly so intimate. He closes his eyes and clears his throat. "I know it's hard. But unless you tell someone..."

I know it, and he doesn't have to say it.

/I'll go crazy./ He wouldn't say that in as many words, but we both know that it's true.

"I want you to tell me what's wrong. I don't care what it is. ...This is the least I can do."

I'm silent for a few moments, then think of something to say.

"...How do I begin?"

Quatre looks at me as if I'm the most beautiful thing in the world. "Where it feels right." I gaze into the blue pools just inches from my face. I smell his warm sweet breath as it brushes my face. I watch the way the rainy outdoor light -- we still have no lights on -- plays dimly on his smooth face and soft hair. /Everything feels right, now./

The thing that surprises me about being this close to Quatre is that I think like I think in combat.

I realized a while ago that, in a horrifying and sick way, killing someone is just like loving someone . You let your consciousness go blank and succumb to instinct. You don't think anymore.

Whenever I pilot Heavyarms, or participate in a mission, I consciously choose not to think about the moral implications of my actions or the emotions involved when I kill and destroy. I don't force the thoughts to go somewhere else, I just ignore them. The result is that, in combat, my conscious mind is totally dedicated to eliminating and neutralizing the threat. Self-control, inhibitions, worries... all the things that I concentrate on so much in "normal operation" are completely ignored.

The obvious question is, how can I remain myself when all of these things are unchained?

Without control, I am no longer real.

But one can think of my mind in a certain way. My unrestrained self -- the part of my mind that a doctor like Sally Po would call my /id/, the sum total of all my hidden desire, bloodlust, pain, passion -- could be likened to a flowing river, one which must be controlled. If it were to be released, it would flow freely and destroy all it touches.

The dam that I've constructed over that river lets out enough to survive but not to hurt anything. It's /construction/ of my conscious mind, my /ego/, my reason... my /mask/. The dam is not all my consciousness, in other words, but just a tool it makes use of.

What is crucial to this analogy is that if the dam was ever to crack or break, the ocean of water trapped behind it with the force of a trillion tons would break forth, obliterating everything in its path -- the dam, the riverbed, the ground below it, and anyone standing near enough to it. [1]

When I am in combat, the mental energy dedicated to holding the "dam" together is dedicated to analysis and decisive decision-making. But even with no energy to maintain itself, the dam doesn't shatter or topple or explode into a rain of bricks.

The dam simply ceases to be.

The energy of the water behind it pushes through the space it used to occupy in a flash, and the force obliterates all in front of it.

When I attacked the Clancy Air Force Base, I think they described me over the intercom as a "demon".

I've been called "monster," "devil," and more.

When I kill, I really kill.

But even though the ocean has exploded forth, the bricks aren't swept away. The dam is not destroyed. The mask is not yet shattered. It's simply been moved, lifted into the air, teleported somewhere. The floodgates have opened, but they can be closed again once the combat is over.

In this way can I channel my aggression and pain into a devestating force. I eliminate, just for a few moments, the object that controls them.

And that's what I'm doing right now. I speak with no regard for how I may sound or seem. I speak, literally, from the heart, as honest as I can be.

And I let Quatre feel the pressure that has pushed against me all these years.

I didn't think that this was possible.

I didn't think that it was possible for me to talk like this without losing a fundamental part of me.

But I just realized that that's not true.

Talking isn't hard when you aren't listening to yourself. All I concentrate on is him, and I say what comes naturally. The conversation flows slowly but forcefully. There's a certain security and sense of "belonging" that can be had from exchanging thoughts without pretense or modesty. I've never spoken like this before.

In a very real way, it's like being naked.

I've never opened myself like this before without killing or destroying. In a detatched sense, I can hear what I'm saying. It's honest but somehow transparent, robotic, artificial. It's the truth, but it's not really /me/ that's saying it. Really objecting to it, trying to stop it, is impossible. So I start listening to myself speak.

Like a reservoir or an ocean, I begin to empty my soul into him. And he accepts and believes me with the strength that only someone like him could have.

"I've always believed in heaven, Quatre. The concept of a perfect existence."

Pause for shock.

"....In an abstract way?"

"No, in a real one."

"Do you mean... absolute perfection?"

"A perfect world, Quatre."

"Like a utopia?"

"...you can call it what you want."

"Do you want to be IN heaven?"

"I don't care where I am."

"Do you want to travel to heaven?"

"No."

"Do you want heaven?"

"Yes. I want to know why this world /isn't/ heaven."

Pause.

His voice sounds so sad, as though he's about to cry. "Because you think you've earned it?"

"If anything, I deserve to go to hell. I tried to make heaven, Quatre. I thought that if I fought, I could make this world work. I could make it a perfect place."

Another pause. I look into his eyes but they give me no solace. "I thought we could create paradise.

"And I was wrong. It was all worthless."

He doesn't say anything.

"When I see how stupid people are, I feel that everything we did was wrong..."

"Is the world really that imperfect? We're not at war..."

"That's not the point, Quatre. You know that..."

/You know that people still hate each other./

/You heard about how those idiots tried to beat up Heero and Duo just because they wanted to be together in public./

/You know how the Preventer unit's always working./

/You know that even though we're at peace now, once it loses its novelty, people will wage war simply because they're bored./

/You know that people naturally want to fight. Children play at fighting. Teenagers get into fights at school. Adults fight over stocks and bonds./

Quatre frowns. "Someone once said that 'In my experience, all things end in death.'..'[2]

"The point is that... that I failed."

Quatre's forehead touches mine again and I can see the dim reflection of my green eyes in his dark blue ones. He kisses me for the first time ever, gently brushing his lips against my cheek. I hear his words in my ear.

"I'm sorry."

The river freezes in place. It stops in mid-flow, astonished, astounded. From beneath the haze of distance and seperation, I can feel him kissing me again, a bit harder, on the other cheek. He does it again, this time on the mouth, brushing his tongue against my closed lips, relishing me...

Suddenly, taking advantage of the surprise, I mentally shift gears. The dam is whole again. The floodgates close with the sound of screeching metal. The blank face, which only distanced itself from the face, slips into its accustomed place.

And everything gets brighter. The sound of rain is gone; the sun has come out.

I open my mouth and modestly return the favor on his left cheek.

I shake my head and look away, dazed. I can't believe I said all that. It was like I was in a trance, a berserker, a robot...

He snuggles closer in to me, leaning his head on my chest, gazing up into my eyes. His voice speaks with relief and pleasure, with a comforting sense of finality. "...I always thought you'd like that."

Moving my face isn't important, but I suddenly become acutely aware of the face that I can't smile. Did I smile when I was in that trance? Perhaps. I didn't realize it if I did. It's necessary to agree verbally. I speak oddly, softly, in an odd cadence and meter. "I did like it. A lot."

Naturally, he apologizes. I suppose it must be a reflex for him. "I would've done it earlier... but I was just afraid to try."

Talking is easier now.

I don't have to worry now.

Everything's better now.

"Don't... be afraid of me, Quatre."

"I was never afraid of /you/. I know you'd never hurt me..." He falls silent, as though ashamed to tell the answer. "...I was afraid that you might not want me."

I realize he already knows how I feel, but affirming it can't hurt anything. It would make me feel better, as well. I don't sound nearly as stupid as I thought I would. "You don't have to worry."

For once, he doesn't say anything, just smiles at me. I realize that Quatre always seems to be smiling... but there's a subtle difference between just smiling and... /smiling at me/. It's as different as the sun and moon.

"I know it was irrational... I know I didn't have to worry...."

He's a direct person... not one who camouflages his feelings like Heero or me. He wouldn't have been afraid of being embarassed. So why didn't he ask me earlier? He knew about me all along. He always knew that I wanted to be with him. In fact, he probably knew it before I did.

"So what were you afraid of? Why did you hesitate?"

Looking very much the prisoner in the dock, Quatre lowers his eyes. "I tried to kill you."

Does he think I'm mad at him? I never /have/ been and I'm certainly not now. I guess he can only know so much. I express anger with indifference. And I treat everyone, even Quatre, though I know I shouldn't, with the same indifference. It's an unbreakable habit... it's an addiction, but the drug gives me no reward except isolation. Perhaps at one time, isolation was what I needed. But not now.

Now, all I need is him.

Though my face does not show it, I've finally found an appropriate rejoinder. "...That didn't stop Heero and Duo."

"I guess you're right," he intones hopefully, and gently kisses me again. The sensation is like an electric shock: a jolt, a heart that begins to race, a sensation of nerves twitching and flashing. This, though, is a shock that doesn't hurt. In fact, it feels very very good.

I think for a few moments and incline my head. "How did you know?" I ask him with the simple wonder and honesty of a child who's witnessed a perfect magic trick. "I know I'm not..."

"Communicative?"

I feel like laughing. "...That's it."

He makes a fist and taps his chest. "Uchuu no koroko." /Space Heart./

Maybe it is magic.

"How does it work?"

He looks around the room for nothing in particular, as if slightly embarassed by it.

"Have you ever been so close to someone that you thought you could...er... predict every movement they made? That you could anticipate the person's exact reactions to things? That you could /feel/ it when something important had happened to them... even though there was no way for you to know about it? Or even that you could predict such a thing even before it happened?"

I shake my head dumbly. "No..."

I've never really been close to anyone. I've seen plenty of faces, to be sure... the mercenaries, the doctors, OZ officials, circus troup members. I've known a world full of people, traveling, jumping around the way I've always done. But in all honesty I've never known anyone as intimately as I know Quatre... and frankly, I've never wanted to. He's all the world I need.

/Is that really true? Does this happen to me with him? With Catherine? With anybody?/

He looks grave for a moment, as though his grim diagnosis has been confirmed. "I'm sorry. It's really a wonderful feeling when you do... but the way you've lived... well, I can't say I'm very surprised. But, you're a smart person, so I know you get the idea of what I mean. It's a type of emotional intimacy that people who're close to each other can achieve. It doesn't happen to everyone... it's most common among twins, I believe. Sometimes you notice it right away. For some people it develops after years and years and for others it never develops at all. I think of it as a sort of limited telepathy or empathy."

I've never known such as thing.

"The human race is, I think, very much like space itself. Each person, like a star, shines with its own brilliance and color, moving slowly along, gradually being born and winking out... some close to each other, some very distant from anything at all. If two stars are very close together, you can begin to notice patterns on the other one... cycles, revolutions, changes in size and brightness. You can observe storms on the surface, solar flares, sunspots.

"I think that being close to someone, in a psychic sense, is like being located next to a star. You can predict things about them. You can tell when they're peaceful or angry. You can read their patterns. Depending on your location and mass, you can even influence their path through the universe."

He smiles at me.

"And, of course, you feel warm all the time. That's why I call it "Space Heart", Trowa. It crosses the boundaries between distant stars. It leaps between galaxies and suns. It bridges seperate edges of the universe..."

And he kisses me again, lips soft and warm.

"It bridges the space between our hearts."

"What happens if the stars collide?"

Quatre looks at me oddly. "What?"

"Stellar collision. Do two stars ever combine into one?"

I can see him touching the tip of his tongue to his upper lip, as if choosing a word, and his glance flicks away from me for a moment. I watch him smile and only half-listen to his answer: "...Um... that's where the metaphor breaks down, Trowa."

Well, I may have found love and happiness, but I'm still as awkward as ever. Talk about spoiling the mood...

"Oh." I guess I'd been hoping for something more romantic, but it'll have to do.

/Me. A romantic...?/

He speaks, decisive, suddenly addressing the issue that we were talking about earlier. I feel a small tinge of discomfort as he removes his body from my touch. "Trowa, I can't make a perfect world. Believe me, I would if I could... and I know you would, too."

I blink and notice that the tears have finally dried.

"But I think I can help you. If nothing else, I can at least help you understand the situation that you're in."

I just give him proper warning, but it sounds like a rejection. Once again, I wish I hadn't said anything. "You don't have to if you don't want to."

He puts his hands around the back of my head, feeling the short end of my hair. I can feel him almost recoil after his fingers brush it -- not in disgust or alarm, but because he thinks I feel special, beautiful... too beautiful to touch. Apparently he gives into desire, because he moves his hands inwards again and starts gently caressing the back of my neck. He's as as nervous as I am, maybe more.

"I've never stopped wanting to help you."

Quatre speaks haltingly, slowly: "You convinced yourself that winning the war would create heaven... and you're wondering why the world isn't /heaven/ now. But I think you're convinced that it really /IS/ heaven... and that you're just missing it. You've convinced yourself that you don't belong here."

"Maybe you're right. Maybe I did convince myself I was just missing it all." I admit to it freely now. "Because I've made the same mistake in the past. I've been blind to the most perfect thing in my life." ...I don't want to hurt him, but I have to say it. "I didn't see you when you were there."

He draws in a breath sharply, as though he's been stung. Then he continues to caress my neck and shoulders. "Trowa... If there's one thing I've learned in this world, it's that no matter how hard we try, it'll never be perfect. Never."

"Maybe Duo was right about 'original sin'," I murmur.

"Don't tell the Maganacs, but I stopped believing in God when I first saw people dying. And when I stepped back and looked at it all, I realized something about religions. They all try to explain this fact away. Catholicism does it by saying we're all naturally sinful and that only by living a life of purity we'll gain paradise. Others do it through reincarnation models, Nirvana... some of the ancient ones believed that the world would have to be destroyed first before paradise could be accomplished... apparently Quinze and Dekim believed that much, though in quite a different way...[3]"

He speaks gently, perfectly, beautifully... but with a grim and world-weary conviction that somehow clashes with his perfect exterior. "Trowa, paradise will never exist on earth. I'm convinced of that now."

I can't say a thing.

What am I supposed to say? He's right. I saw it. We did all that everyone tried to do. We tried to make it perfect by fighting what we saw as the greatest evil. It didn't do a thing. Trieze tried to make it perfect by ruling everything. That didn't work either. Zechs, Dekim, and Quinze tried to make it perfect by making us focus our energy towards surviving.

And even if that plan -- the original Operation Meteor -- /had/ worked, I'm not sure I'd like to have lived in a world where it had.

"But, Trowa, that's not really important... trust me. Your heart was in the right place. You may have killed a lot of people. But it wasn't useless or worthless."

Suddenly my mind aches for our earlier unfettered communication. I stutter a little bit. "I do trust you. I always have. But... but..."

"It seems futile? Well... maybe it is. But we've won twice already. Maybe if it happens again, we can win a third time. Or maybe we won't have to fight again at all. That's always possible."

/How is he anticipating my thoughts? How does he know what I'm thinking? /

"Do you want to know how I'm doing it, Trowa?"

My eyes widen in wonder.

Quatre grins and begins speaking, mimicking his earlier performance. "...Have you ever been so close to someone that you thought you could predict every movement they made? That you could anticipate the person's exact reactions to things? That you could /feel/ it when something important had happened to them... even though there was no way for you to know about it? Or even that you could predict such a thing even before it happened?"

He knew all along. He knew what to say and what to do.

He knew how to get me to break down and tell him what was wrong.

He knew how to finally convince me to open up.

And he acted the part perfectly. He totally fooled me.

And I don't care if he did decieve me.

Because I know that he planned it so that I was the one who started everything. I was the one who started talking. I was the one who asked the questions. I was the one who finally expressed all my hopes and fears.

And I was the one who finally accepted reality.

I participated. I did everything right because he planned everything right.

Quatre, it seems, knew me better than I knew myself.

Suddenly it makes perfect sense. "How long has it been? How long have you been able to... read me?"

"Well... that's not really right. I can't 'read' you. There are parts of you I don't know about. There are parts of you I've never been sure of, and probably never will. But... I've been able to /feel/ you from the first time I met you. From before I even saw you."

Again, he slips into his past mode of speaking, and says what he'd said on that street corner in the rain. "Have you ever read a book that you've been certain you've read before, even though you know you've never even touched it? Have you ever been to a place and thought that you /knew/ it, you could easily find your way around, as though you'd walked through there without a care some forgotten time before?"

"Since the beginning?" I exclaim, alarmed. Why did he wait so long?

"There are things the Space Heart can't do, Trowa. Sometimes it says something that isn't right at all. Sometimes it doesn't say anything. It can't do hypotheticals... it can't predict what you /might/ do under certain circumstances. I have to begin something before I can see the outcome. I have to start the wheels turning."

It makes sense now.

But I've never felt anything like that. For him or for anyone, though I'd desperately like to.

Is it possible for such a bond to exist in only one direction?

/I belong to him./

/Does he belong to me?/

He rubs his chin against my cheek, smooth, warm. "Trowa, I do belong to you. Never forget that."

I reach up and caress his face. He sighs and his eyes narrow in pleasure, laughing as my slim fingers brush against his cheekbones, temples, lips... I lean over and kiss his beautiful and innocent face, feeling almost as though I'm defiling something, as though I'm not welcome...

Then he returns the kiss, opening his mouth to explore mine. And suddenly I realize that he may have kissed my cheek before, it may have been on the surface before. But this is our first real kiss. We've gone beneath the water. We're immersed in the river.

It's real, and it's now, and it's him.

And it's perfect.

It's too good. Too soft and warm and relaxing. Too exciting. Too happy. The guilt is disappearing, but manages to appear one last time. I can't do this. He deserves better than me.

The old pain comes back for an encore. "I don't belong here."

Quatre pulls away long enough to smile a radiant smile. "You do."

"I've hurt so many people..."

He squeezes back into my arms, tighter than before. I can smell his skin and feel his soft hair against my cheek. "You never hurt me."

"I've destroyed so much."

His voice, urgent, pleading. "But you've saved even more than that!"

I want to believe him. More than anything. But still a part of me believes that he cannot be right. This cannot be heaven, and even if it is a sinner like me doesn't belong here. "There's still so much that's wrong with the world! There's so much we could have done!"

"But there's more that's right today than ever before. And we're not done yet."

"But..."

"Don't worry, Trowa. It'll be okay."

I shake my head. "I want to believe that. But I just can't! We won the war, but there's still suffering. We did everything we wanted to do... but the world is still at risk..."

"There's always going to be something wrong with the world. There will always be suffering in some degree. It's the way humans are." He cuts me off, insistent and ardent. "But as long as we're here, we have to try. We can do our best to fix the world... at least the parts of it that can be fixed. We have to keep on trying... for us... and for everyone else!"

/Us.../

"I know I can do it. And I think you can do it too."

Before I can answer, he lowers his voice to a whisper. "I think you can do it as long as you know something. I don't think you realize it yet. But I... I realized it from the moment I saw you."

He drops his brilliant blue eyes towards the floor and says something almost too softly for me to hear. I freeze, shocked.

/Did he just...?/

/He didn't. He couldn't have./

/He did./

He keeps on talking, repeating the same phrase, this time loud enough to really hear. Again, louder, this time looking into my eyes. It barely registers in my glazed mind this time. Once more and it's bliss. This is pleasure. This is ecstacy. It sounds like the soft wings of angels brushing against my ears. Those words, those three words, sound more beautiful than anything in this world or the next.

"I love you," he says again.

I can't talk. I've gone mute again, gone blind and dumb again. I've lost my memory again. I'm frozen, immobile. I sense nothing but him. I /need/ nothing but him. All I can do is hear him say those three words again and again. All I can do is feel my heart beat faster and faster until it seems as though it will explode...

"I love you." It's like I'll never be able to hear him say it enough.

"I love you, Trowa." It's like all the pain's gone away.

"I love you. And I always have." It's like variations on a theme, like heavenly choirs singing the same tune in different rhythms and counts.

"I love you. And I always will."

Like Heaven.

And suddenly I know exactly what to say. It's something I've never said before, something I've barely even /thought/ before... but something that's as natural and real as the rainbow filling the sky outside the thick window. Probably more real.

"I love you, too."

More than anything.

After a while, Quatre looks up from a passionate kiss... only to have his eyes and mouth open in wonder and surprise.

"You're... you're smiling, Trowa."

I sit stock-still, as though rooted in place in the large soft hotel chair, as I accept his kisses and and smell his scent. I never thought anything could feel so good. I never thought I'd feel anything except longing and suffering.

Through the window, the brilliant sun kisses his hair. So do I.

And all the time I never realized that I had something so precious and special, so unique and beautiful, that losing it would destroy my world. All the time I never realized how close I was to what I needed.

I only realize now that what I was searching for was hidden so close that, had it not been for him, I never would have found it. Hidden in plain sight.

I searched the world for the answer, but I only found it inside myself.

I was crying tears in heaven.



~OWARI

Completed at 2:24 AM, July 31, 2000.
BIG REWRITE completed 1:35 PM, September 30, 2000.

[1] Introducting a super-ego into this analogy would unduly complicate matters. If you're interested, which I doubt you are... according to Freud's book "Ego and Id", the consciousness contains two representatives; the ego, which is the voice of external reality, and the superego, which is the voice of the subconscious id. For the story's sake I've considered the concept of EGO to be the sum total of /ego and superego/. To all psychology students out there: please point out problems with the arguments contained above, as I'm by no means an expert.

[2] Line taken straight from Tom Stoppard's excellent play "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". Next best line from the play is, "Do you suppose that Death could be a boat?"

[3] Specifically I'm refering to Norse mythology, which says that warriors exist only to die and wait in Valhalla for their final end at Ragnarok, the apocalypse, when the Gods will finally die and the world will be unmade... this is /fated/ to happen, totally impossible to prevent. If I'm not mistaken, the race of people who will rise after this will create a perfect world. Hey, fic idea...! Norse mythology rules.